Run and Hide Your Crazy…

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I heard a phrase on the radio the other day that I haven’t heard since I was a young’un.  I was listening to a country music radio station on the way home from work and a song by Miranda Lambert came on.  The song is called, “Mama’s Broken Heart.”  In the song, Mama tells the girl to ‘Run and hide your crazy and start acting like a lady.’  I laughed out loud because I can remember Mama telling her brothers and sisters that they needed to just ‘run on and hide their crazy.’

It is just so funny to me how things just kind of surface in our lives to give us a ‘heads up,’ so to speak.  Who knew that I would be dealing with bat-shit crazy this week?  Something always seems to be stirring, huh?

Let me preface what I am about to write.  Firstly, I am not Wiccan.  I am not Gardnerian.  I am not a Voudouist.  I am a Witch.  I practice in many different ways.  I employ animism, rootwork, herbalism, spoken and written spells, rituals to God and Goddess, dancing (naked and clothed), naturism, shamanism, and Native American medicine.  I am accountable to a small circle of friends, not a coven.2014-03-26 22.26.35

 

I have had a love of magick (and yes, I spell it with a ‘k’ because I choose to).  I am a part of the universe and the elements and they are all a part of me.  I make no excuses for anything I do in my Path…and I ask for no one’s approval.  As long as I feel the energy of the earth, sky, seas, sun and moon….all is well with the world.

I will also say that I have many friends who walk many different paths….Wicca, Voudou, Gardnerian, Shamanism–so many it is hard to even count.  They walk their paths with integrity, purpose and devotion.

So…you may ask, what brought all this on?  I received a scathing message this afternoon from someone who read my blog.  In this message, I was berated for not having been initiated properly by a High Priestess and Priest.  I was told that my ‘practices’ were essentially for naught because I did not belong to an  authentic tradition, and that I had not fulfilled the ‘year and a day’ requirement.  I was told that my spellwork  and rituals were too simplistic and my blogs too ‘fluffy.’  I was also warned of my association with the ‘dark’ gods and goddesses.

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Did I get angry, you may ask?  No.  Did I send a message back ripping this person from horn to hoof?  No.  Did I hurl a powerful, gut-wrenchingly painful curse or hex at this person?  No.  This person has already made their own bitter, hate-filled, narrow-minded cave to live in.  Just by this persons own divisive way of thinking, they have alienated themselves from such a powerful part of the magickal community.  They will never allow themselves to get to know some of the most creative, lively magick-filled folk ever created.

I do speak a warning to those of you reading this.  Do not discount the power that others hold.  Be warned, lest you fall into the ways of the mainline church.  If we start to behave the way this person did, we will soon be denominationalizing paganism (though I have already seen some leanings).  When we start to get ‘preachy’ about one way being right or wrong, others start to walk around us and avoid us…just like the street envangelist standing on a wooden box at the crosswalk.

My question to you is:  How do you respond when you find out that someone’s path is not like yours?  Are you open to what they believe?  Do you listen intently as they tell their experiences…even though they may not line up with what you were taught or do you stand there with little besoms and flames  darting in your eyes just waiting to tell them how wrong their chosen path is?

I am more than used to being told that I am wrong.  Being gay, I have been told that my ‘lifestyle’ is not natural so many times, I could circle the world with all the little gay rainbow fairies that passed out by the sheer shock.  Being told that something I do is wrong doesn’t even phase me anymore.  If I am wrong, I will be the first one to tell you.

It is not your job to live your life as a dementor.  It is not required for you to suck all of the happiness and joy out of the world.

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If the pagan community were to join energies, despite our differences, just imagine the magick that would encompass this world.  To most of the mundane community, magick has been confined to fairy tales and fiction.  Gods and goddesses have become only mythology and dragons and other magickal beings have been relocated to artwork and toys.

We have the potential to show paganism and witchcraft as honorable and full of integrity.  We have the ability in our very minds and hands to focus intention in ways never dreamed possible.  All we have to do is Learn to Play Nice!!!   2014-03-30 19.45.34The power is right there in your hands!

Blessed Be!

Though the Sorrow May Last Through the Night…

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I have been hated for many things over the years.  I have been hated for things I have done….things I have said….my belief system….who I am.  Through all of the persecution, I have always tried to be the bigger man.  I have always tried to reason with my brain and respond with compassion and love.

For some reason, though, the events that have bombarded the United States and the world over the past few months have drowned my heart in sorrow.  I am referring to the persecution of homosexuals in Uganda and Russia….also this “Turn the Gay Away” bill that seems to be rearing its ugly head in so many states.men-holding-hands-3CROP

I am a tolerant man.  I try to respect and honor all faiths. I try to respect and honor all races.  I try to embrace the differences that make us all individuals and make this world a more interesting place to live.  I try to surround myself with people who have the same kind of heart.

For those of you who don’t know, I served as a pastor for two mainline denominations for over ten years.  In those ten or more years, I was only met with intolerance once.  In that instance, the pastor of the church told me that he suspected me to be gay.  At the time, I was not out of the closet or quite as sure of who I am as I am now.  He told me that I needed to have an HIV test done and have the results submitted to him and his wife.  I had never been so humiliated.  In that moment, I hated myself for who I was and tried to hide anything about me that would give me away.

Fortunately, after that incident, I was hired into a large church in Charlotte.  I was met at the door with open arms and a love for any uniqueness that made me…me.  In time, I became more confident in who I was and more secure in my sexuality.  I remember one day when I went into my lead pastor’s office.  I had requested a meeting so that I might talk to him about my being gay.  He sat thoughtfully in his chair with his glasses perched on the tip of his nose.  I mustered all of my courage and said, “Pastor, I am gay.”  No reaction.  I said, “Pastor, perhaps you didn’t hear me.  I am gay.”  No reaction.  He picked up his bible and started thumbing slowly through it.  All I could think was that I was about to be blasted with scripture.  Instead, he turned to me and smiled.  He said, “Did you grow an extra head or something?”  I said, “No.”  He looked at me and laughed and said, “You are still one of the best pastors I have been blessed enough to serve with.  Now get back to work.”  With that declaration, he pulled me in for a hug, then put his hand on my shoulder and sent me back to my office….feeling more loved than I ever have.

There was a song we did in that church….the lyrics still come to my mind as I type:

I’m trading my sorrow
I’m trading my shame
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord

I’m trading my sickness
I’m trading my pain
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord

[Chorus:]
And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen

I’m pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I’m blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy’s gonna be my strength

Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

Thinking of these lyrics today reminded me….it is only in squeezing or crushing the grape, that the sweetness of the juice is released.

I know that there are those out there who would call themselves Christian who would rather spew out hate and vitriol than take the teachings of the biblical Christ to heart.  My days in the church were not spent studying a Christ who belittled and hated.  I spent hours in my office composing sermons of a Christ who sat and ate and drank with tax collectors and prostitutes (the vilest of the vile in his day).  I became acquainted with a Christ who, when told that a woman was caught in an act of sin and should be stoned, looked down at the ground and said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”  He then looked at the woman with compassion and asked, “Where are your accusers?” She said, “There are none.” “Neither do I condemn you…go and sin no more.”004-jesus-washes-feet

My fondest memory of this Christ who receives the blame for so much of the hatred that spews from man….is the Christ who spent the night before his death washing the feet of his disciples.  He knew that one of them would betray him that very night….but he chose to take on the role of servant.  And again, I studied of this Christ….the one whom people blame for their right to picket soldiers funerals, and burn the sin out of people…this Christ returned from the grave to offer those who had denied him and spat on him and killed him, another chance for redemption.

So, if I have all of these wonderful memories of the church…all these wonderful remnants of who Christ was, buried inside me, why did I become a witch?  Because Christianity, to me, was limiting.  Why limit myself to one god….even if he was a three in one.  Gods and Goddesses encompass so much more than we are willing to give them credit for.  Humanity has always wanted to keep that which we don’t understand confined….if you don’t believe this, go to a zoo.

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My trip to the woods this morning was a heavy-hearted trip.  As Friz and I settled in, Friz could tell there was something different about my spirit.  He quietly licked my face. He nuzzled me…he stayed close by.  I called on the elements, the directions…and this time I did not stop at the Lord and Lady I normally call upon.  I called upon the Christ that I had been acquainted with years ago.  We chatted about those who are using his name to hurt and harm and hate.  We also chatted about those followers of his who actually “get it.”

It doesn’t matter what faith you pursue or what you believe….there is never a place for hatred.  Hatred only destroys.  It turns the hater into a predator whose thirst for blood can never be sated.  It turns those who are hated into prey…constantly pursued and never able to rest.

As I lay back onto the earth this morning, I saw Mama Crow perched in the trees above.  She has only ever asked one thing of me….”Be true to myself.”  I have not been able to hide who I am in years, and I do not intend to start now.

I will stand tall with my sword at the ready…not fighting for the sake of the fight, but so that change may actually be affected.  I will love stronger than I have ever loved, and with every swing of the sword, I shall breathe compassion and healing over any who become part of the battle.  I will never go back into hiding. Witch or gay, my true self will always shine through.

As I lay there this morning, feeling Mother Earth pouring her magick into me and the Wild Man of the Woods pouring his stamina into  me,  I looked to my side to see a grouping of daffodils…not yet bloomed, but the color of yellow just barely peeking through.2014-02-22 15.13.15

Though the sorrow may last for the night
Joy comes with the morning!

Blessed Be!

Through the Storms

tornado-and-lightning1It seems over the past month or even longer that I have watched folks go through some severely trying times in their lives.  I have seen normally strong people seem to crumple over in exhaustion as they fight….and I mean really fight through life lately.   I have watched as their support systems…their witchy family and friends, rally around them…pushing them, holding them up, holding up their arms when they don’t seem to have the strength to even bear a wand.  Then again, I have also seen those out there who are quick to judge…waiting like a spider who watches as a fly ensnares itself into its web…only to devour the weakening creature hours later.images (1)

I try to be a person who follows after that first example.  I try to send strength and healing to those who need it and I try to avoid those who follow that second example.  Life is hard enough folks.  We don’t need people in our lives who aren’t going to breathe healing and strength back into us.

I am very particular who I allow into my “circle.”  I only need those who see me for who I truly am and are ok with that.  I have never felt a need to have to prove anything to anyone or have to jump through hoops for friendships.  I have also never felt the need to be around drama mongers.  As I have said before, life is hard enough…..why try to create more crap to wade through?

Something I remember from growing up on the farm was that we were not supposed to walk in the cow pies that were splatted in the pasture.  My brother and I, always being model children, made it a point to walk through the pasture as  much as possible.  We loved to play a game we made up called ‘Dodge the Pile.’  We would run around the cow pies laughing and yelling at the top of our lungs.  We would inevitably lose our balance and step in a pile.  We didn’t mind it so much….it was warm and squishy between our toes.  It wasn’t as bad as mama made it out to be…..until one of us pushed the other and we landed face first in one of those big old piles of poop.  Where we had originally seen our little game as fun….we forgot one thing in the midst of it….it was still crap.

CowPie-JeffVanugaI think today, many of us have become adept at dodging the piles.  We go through life dealing with the issues that don’t seem to be so much of a bother.  Then there are those times when we get blind-sided and fall face first into what may have seemed small to begin with….but the more we wrestle through it, we realize that it is just pure unadulterated crap.  By this time, we are typically up to our necks, swimming in the aroma and we become afraid to ask for help.

As I said earlier, I learned very quickly who I can go to in times like these.  There are always those people who are quick to say, “Tell me all about it.  You can trust me.”  Then they run and tell everyone you didn’t need to know.  “Can you believe that poor So-and-So is having to deal with this?  It must be Karma.”  “So-and-So is having such a time of it lately.  He must not be holding his tongue right when he is casting.”  These are the people who need to be cut off like dead branches from a tree.  They suck the life out of those around them with their wagging tongues and false concern.

DSCN0625I want to be the type of person that someone can come to, tell me what they are dealing with (if they choose to), and know beyond knowing that when I say that I am sending healing or strength….that is exactly what I am doing.  I want them to know that I am surrounding them in all  the power and healing and love that I  can conjure.  I want them to know that when I whisper their names to the Goddess….that I am surrounding them in so much love that nothing else dare try to penetrate it.

When I was working in the church, too many times I heard the phrase, ‘Christians shoot their own wounded.’  That phrase is not exclusive to Christians.  I think that the premise behind that comes from the fact that if we can draw attention away from ourselves and to something or someone more vulnerable, then we can create a safe place for ourselves.  Not true.  Eventually, what we were trying to cover up in the beginning is going to shine so brightly in the moonlight and show itself to those who were never really fooled in the first place.  Those around us aren’t really as naive as we think they are.

This morning was a glorious morning for a trip to the pond and the woods.  It seemed as though I had been away from them for far too long.  I roused that little blue chihuahua way too early, it had seemed.  He yawned and stretched as he slowly came out of his kennel.  It wasn’t long before everything was packed up in my backpack and we were ready for our little jaunt.  When we walked out into the courtyard…there was that glorious briskness that only fall can bring.  Friz’  nose was already in the air experiencing the smells of fall all around us.  I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply.  I could feel rejuvenation rushing through every fiber of my being as I took in the crispness that was greeting me.

We stopped by the pond first.  So much healing and strength was needed for so many.  Friz and I lay on our bellies on the bank with our noses pointed toward the water.  He always seems to be so alert when I do things with the water.  He watched me as I whispered the names of those with needs.  As I whispered, I touched my finger to the water and caused ripples.  Each time the water moved, Friz would let out a quiet, “Buf.”  It was almost as if it was his way of adding his voice to mine.  We lay there for a bit…then I rolled over and he crawled on my stomach….he knew there was more to do.

We walked toward the woods.  He danced as we left the sidewalk and started on that familiar path.  As we left the sidewalk, there was a familiar little calico on our heels. Friz licked her across the head and she grimaced…but only for a second.  We settled in the midst of our tree friends and I arranged the skulls of wolf and crow.  I put the candles in the middle, lit them and made our circle.  I called on the Morrigan.  Those who I know are dealing with issues need strength and the power for battle to be sent to them.  None of these people are weak by any means…..but when dealing with things that blindside you…you always need more battle-sense and endurance.

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In the midst of those battles, you need people who are willing to encircle you….form a human shield….and help to eliminate anything extra that would try to weaken you.  You need people who are willing to say, “You aren’t crazy and you aren’t weak….you are tired and fatigued.  That is why I am here.  I am going to help you hold that sword or that wand.”

We finished our time in the woods and as I thanked the elements and the Lord and Lady and the directions…I packed everything away and listened as Friz played with the kitten.  I looked up to see them wrestling and as I shuffled, they stopped mid wrestle and stared at me.  We began the short journey back home….dropping off the little calico squirt with her mom first. (Mom just stands at her gate and waits for us now).  Friz and I walked the rest of the way to our courtyard…we opened the door to the condo and Friz bounded toward the sofa.  We both collapsed into one big snoring heap and rested…..completely rested.

Blessed Be!

 

The Healing Stick

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Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working on something that I have wanted for a long, long time. I have been stripping and sanding and smoothing my own staff…..an honest to goodness sorcerer’s staff. Not unlike Gandalf’s staff in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy but also completely unique…encompassing those things that I love about the Craft and my magickal life.

The wood is the vine called ‘Tree of Heaven.’ You can see these vines on pretty much anything that will stand still in the south….but the twists and turns of the wood show so much movement on something so stationary. The staff will be topped with a crow’s skull and wrapped at the top with humanely harvested wolf’s fur with crow feathers hanging from the top. Embedded in the wood will be stones of Merlinite, Moonstone, and Dragon’s Breath. I will engrave sigils and runes on the staff and stain it with a red mahogany stain.2013-06-09 14.48.42 HDR

Working on this staff has been a wonderful refreshing time for me. My grandma had always taught me that the best way to get bark off of a branch or piece of wood was with a ‘tater’ peeler. I remember the first strips of bark I watched slide off the staff and on to the ground…..it came off like butter..so easy and so quick. Then I did the next thing my grandma taught me. Put the wood in a dry, even temperatured place for a couple of days to dry a bit. This is so the layer of orange-ish bark will show itself and then that layer can be taken off. I sat on the stoop outside of the condo. This time the stripping was a little more involved and meticulous. I used the ‘tater’ peeler and carefully and slowly began to remove the orange colored stripes that had come to light with the drying process.

As I sat there and worked, my partner opened the door and he came out into the courtyard with the dogs. He sat down beside me and the dogs were lying there on the cool patio as I smoothed out the wood under my hand. As we talked, he asked me what the staff was for and why I had wanted to make it. I explained everything to him and he listened intently. We talked about the meanings of everything that would be included on the staff. He ran his hand along the vine amazed that it was becoming so smooth. We talked about our relationship….and I opened up and told him that I felt like I was becoming more and more callous as I grow older. I told him that sometimes I feel like my heart is frozen…almost unfeeling at times. He looked me in the eyes and quietly told me that he understood…it was time to take the dogs to potty and then back inside. As he stood up, he leaned in and kissed my cheek. “Do you love me?” “Oh honey, I love you so much!”…then he walked out the gate with the dogs. I sighed quietly to myself and continued to work.

I got to a stopping point on the staff and decided to put it in the utility room until the next time I worked on it. I sat down on the couch with a book and started to read. My partner came over to me and kissed me on the cheek. “Do you love me?” “Yes honey, I love you more than anything.”…then he headed to the bedroom.

I finished the chapter I was reading and decided to head to bed. I leaned over to kiss him goodnight. “Do you love me?” “Honey, you know I do. Why do you keep asking?” “Because I know that you love me…..you just need to realize that the heart inside you is a good heart….one full of an infinite amount of love….a heart that is capable of anything you can imagine. It hasn’t become hard or unfeeling….it just gets tired and stressed sometimes.” I rolled over quietly. My mind was going hundreds of miles an hour.

As I rolled over onto my side, my mind raced back to my days in the church. My partner had reminded me of a sermon I had given years and years and years ago. I have always held the thought that we can learn something from all faiths. I watched myself in my mind standing behind the pulpit. I was delivering a sermon based on the scripture where Jesus had been resurrected and was talking to Peter. “Do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, I love you.” “Feed my sheep.” “Peter, do you love me?” “Yes, my Lord, I love you.” “Feed my sheep.” He asked him a third time, “Peter, do you love me?” “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.” “Feed my lambs.” In these verses, Jesus did not ask Peter if he loved him so that Peter might feel shame…or that Peter might think that Jesus questioned his love. Jesus asked these questions of Peter for Peter’s sake. Jesus did not want to condemn Peter….Jesus wanted Peter to get a glimpse of his own heart. It wasn’t Jesus who questioned Peter’s love….it was Peter. It wasn’t Jesus who thought Peter had failed…it was Peter.

As a Pagan…a witch….I think we feel that others are always passing judgement on us. Most of the time, we are the ones who question our own hearts and motives most harshly. If a spell or energy working doesn’t go the direction we think it should, there must be something wrong with us…..we don’t take into consideration that the universe works in ways that we may never get to see.

I have determined that I am my own worst enemy. I will never have to worry about the proverbial Dorothy dropping a house on me…I will have already stood under a condo, a house, an office park waiting for the worst to happen.

I have lived a full life….that life includes hurt, betrayal, confusion and the death of dreams. There is still so much love that radiates from that stringy little organ inside my body. I feel that love every time I sit in the courtyard under the moonlight with a friend who is hundreds of miles away physically. I really don’t have the time or the energy anymore to concentrate on who hurt me when…or who all has ever betrayed me. Those are the things that harden the heart.

What is it that brings healing? Sitting on the stoop in the courtyard barefooted, feeling the shavings hit my feet as I whittle and carve on a stick….a stick that can help facilitate a lot of healing….a stick that prompts conversation and thought…a stick that may mean nothing to anyone but me….but it is my healing stick.

Blessed Be!

Haters Gonna Hate…

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A few years ago, I worked for a dreadful person. She had a way of making you feel as if you could accomplish nothing on your own and that anything tried without her assistance would fail. When I left that position, I remember feeling as if every part of my ego…my self-confidence had been crushed. I doubted everything I did and I questioned every word I spoke. She had a way of making you feel that she could crush you at any moment and leave you lying in the rubble of what you considered your life.

I am a pretty strong person. I have endured a lot….so for anyone to make me feel that way was unusual. I look back and still can’t believe I allowed anyone to have that kind of power over me. After all….I am that male witch who pretty much says what he thinks….does what he wants…and to hell with the rest. Then again, sometimes our foundations get shaken a bit. Sometimes those things that are comfortable to us get taken away and we are forced to stand only on our beliefs.

A couple of weeks ago…on a trip to Walmart, mind you…I was shaken once again. This time, it did not bring self doubt and questioning. This time, it brought about determination. I was leaving the store, and as I walked to my car, I was confronted by a man with a bible in the crook of his arm. He calmly asked me if Jesus was my Lord and Savior and if I died tomorrow, where would I be. I calmly thanked him for his concern for my place in the afterlife and told him that I was fine and proceeded to walk on to my car. He then rushed in front of me, raised his voice a bit and asked if I was prepared for what life without Jesus would bring. Again, I thanked him for his concern, told him I was fine, and proceeded to walk. Once more he pushed himself in front of me and raised his voice even more and yelled his question to me. “Are you prepared for the day that Jesus returns?” I finally was so frustrated….after all, I was just trying to get home before the ice cream melted. I stopped dead in my tracks and said, “I am a witch.” I did not raise my voice…my face was dead-pan. This man proceeds to get in my face and screams at me like a Banshee. My personal space was being invaded over and over again. He was screaming so loudly and being so confrontational that the Walmart security came out and interceded.

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Now, being a gay man, I am used to protests and arguments. I have walked through Gay Pride Celebrations surrounded by picketers. I have listened to the screams of “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” I have even endured the “God Hates Fags” rants. I have even been beaten up for who I am…..but this time I stood there. I was not moving. I was ready for whatever was going to come at me…and quite frankly, I was ready to give back. I felt the power of the Lord and Lady stirring inside of me. Honestly, I was not angry…..I don’t know what the emotion was that was cycloning inside of me. A mixture of confusion and sadness and hurt maybe…..my roommate told me later that I never should have told him I was a witch. I told him that I may as well go back in the closet then…..I may as well try to live life as a straight, church-going nobody.

I told him that the moment I begin to compromise any part of who I am, I may as well crawl under a rock and die. Being a witch is so much of my makeup….just as much as being gay. If I were to try to compromise on either, then I am nothing more than a shell of a man. Cernunnos, Pan, Hekate, the Morrigan are all a part of me….they help to create that person of adventure and obstinence and love and power that I am. They are the creators of destiny within me. They are the dream-givers in my life. The Morrigan is the reason I have any fight and warrior spirit at all in me. Pan and Hekate nurture in me that taste for the wild and my love for the beasts of the earth. Cernunnos pulls out the love of the forest and the hidden places. Without each of them, I am but a lump.

Who I am is as much alive as the elements…..It is Fire that stirs my passion….Water that soothes and offers healing…..Air that calls to spirit…..and Earth that strengthens and grounds me. If I were to compromise my relationship with them….if I were to call to one more than the other….there would be no balance inside of me. Asking me not to be gay or not to be a witch would be like asking a wolf not to be a wolf and a crow not to be a crow…..it defies their very essence…their very spirit and brings confusion to the universe.

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I was told many years ago by a Lakota medicine man that the worst thing that I could ever do was to pretend to be something I wasn’t. “To lie to yourself confuses the spirit within.” He explained this to me using a piece of frybread. He held the frybread in his hand and he tore pieces off. He explained that each tear represented a lie that I told myself. When he finished tearing, there were nothing but pieces and crumbs left…..no matter what he did, he could not piece them back together. He told me that inside me was something unique that only I could offer the world and those around me. I could not do that if my spirit lay in pieces in front of me. “Not all those that you meet on the Good Red Road will like what you hold inside of you….but that is not your concern…..live your life honestly before Wakan Tanka.”

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As I write this tonight….I sit here in tears. The Lord and Lady have used this to rekindle in me exactly who I am. My heart is leaping and under my feet, I can feel the heartbeat of the earth. I smell the breeze through the open window. No one….I mean no one can ever take my heart…my spirit…the essence of who I am away from me. I am stronger…mightier than what I even dream.

I am, along with those gods and goddesses who surround me, the creator of destiny….not just any destiny…..MY DESTINY!!

Blessed Be!